As a job seeker, it can be intimidating to address unconventional or unexpected aspects of your life during the application process. However, most employers understand that candidates aren’t perfect and that life can be unpredictable. In fact, as an HR professional, I’ve seen everything from tragedy that curtailed one’s career to candidates who have been recently released from prison. Unless there is a firm policy against certain crimes such as theft or violent offenses, most employers ask candidates for only two things: honesty and expression of what lesson was learned (how it has made you grow as a person).

Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to addressing any potential red flags in your application. As an HR professional, the only unforgivable issue is dishonesty. If one is dishonest and the employer finds out the truth later, most can be terminated for dishonesty during the application process. The best solution is to tell your story. If there is a gap or fear of a negative reference, tackle it head-on. Before the interviewer asks what happened, express that you would like to discuss it.

Addressing Specific Issues

Here are some tips for addressing specific issues that may arise during the application process:

Gap in Work

Say “there is a two-year gap in my work history that I would like to explain.” I took a few years off to take care of a parent, a sick child, or I was dealing with my own serious health condition. I decided to ensure it was resolved before I re-entered the job market to ensure I could focus fully on a new role.

Require Remote Work

Say “I realize this job requires onsite work, but I need to work remotely because ______________. I can assure you that my performance will be exemplary, and I will fully engage with the team even if I can’t be onsite.”

Criminal Background

Answer that you have a conviction if asked. Describe what happened, what you learned from the incident, and how it has made you a better person and ultimately a wonderful addition to the team.

Poor Potential Reference

Explain what happened at the job that will not compliment your performance. Say “I left the job under unfortunate circumstances. I was unable to get along with my supervisor because of ________. At the point that we realized we were unable to make progress, we agreed to part ways. I learned that I work better in a culture or leadership that is _____________ (ex. supportive, dependable). From my research and our conversations, I believe this is that type of culture.”


To sum it all up, it’s important to remember that honesty is always the best policy when it comes to addressing any potential red flags in your application. By being upfront and transparent about any unconventional or unexpected aspects of your life, you can demonstrate your integrity and show potential employers that you are a trustworthy and valuable candidate. So, don’t be afraid to tell your story and show your personality during the application process. After all, it’s what makes you unique and sets you apart from other candidates.

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